Second Life® Jobs

Second Life® is quite unlike a MMORPG in the sense that you need skills to get a job – or rather, make a living in SL – but, unlike MMORPGs, the skills you need – are your own!

So, there are no buttons to press on dialog boxes that make you “instantly” upgrade an artificial skill which will bump your character into the world of professional services. Instead, you have to apply your own RL skills in SL in order to succeed. During this session, we will try to cover the following types of jobs:

1) Unskilled jobs
2) Classical Skilled jobs
3) Free-lancers and business owners

Unskilled jobs are those that do not require any “outside” skill (ie. RL-related) to be hired. Not surprisingly, there are not many around, and they don’t pay very well. The first type of unskilled job is the night club “dancer”. Since club owners earn some money by attracting crowds – through a complex formula that converts the time and number of people that are inside their club for a period of time into a weekly L$ stipend – it’s natural for them to hire people to attract these crowds and make sure they stay there as long as possible. Dancers are one way to do that.

To become a dancer, you have three alternatives. Sometimes, jobs are offered on the Classified section of the forums, in http://forums.secondlife.com. You can browse the forum groups to see if someone is hiring. The second way is, some clubs sometimes announce special events just to hire dancers. This has become slightly more rare in later months, so perhaps you should try the third way: go to a club you like, try to get in touch with a club owner, and ask him if a job is available.

Some club owners pay a fixed salary, but expect you to be at their club for a certain amount of hours per week (including mostly all announced events at the club, to get a “full house”). Others rely on tips – either paid directly to the dancers, or through tip boxes.

There is a “career progression” in the dancing business. You can later become a stripper – they usually earn more, but club owners also expect you to have appropriate clothes and a nicely designed avatar, or, in some case, some stripping animations. The last step in this business is “escorting”. There are tales of a male escort having been auctioned for L$ 30,000 for 2 hours, so, this can be a very lucrative job! Like in RL, beginners will probably offer their services at a much lower price.

Another very glamorous unskilled job is becoming a model. Hiring is done in similar way as dancers, but the truth is, there are not many job offerings in these areas. There are a few modelling agencies around, and clothes designers usually contact them to organize big fashion events, like in RL. These attract very large crowds and are certainly one of the best and more fun way to present your clothes lines to the SL public.

To become a professional model, you’ll have to do a serious investment in yourself. To earn a large amount of L$, you not only need a gorgeous avatar, but highly priced items like a special skin, hair (often prim hair, which is expensive), good make-up techniques, and catwalking animations, preferable unique (thus, often you have to pay someone to do them for you). To become a famous model, expect a recurring investment in more animations. Still, the job usually pays well. And you get the glamour and fame that comes with this job 🙂

Lately, shop attendants have become fashionable again, as a counter-point to the automated vendors. Humans always sell much better than machines, so, some brands have been hiring people to do the sales for them. Sales reps have the advantage of not being tied to a specific location. An agreement is made upon sales comissions, and, if the shop owner expects you to stay at the same place for a few hours per week, they usually pay you a small salary as well.

With the recent increase of griefers in-world – people whose sole purpose is destroying events by disrupting them – there has also been some offerings as bouncers or security agents. When someone is concentrating all of his/her efforts in running an event, it’s always handy to have a few people around that target the griefers and make them leave the place, instead of having to deal with them as well.

In any case – and perhaps excepting models and escorts – unskilled jobs do not really pay well, so lets take a look at skilled jobs.

“Skilled jobs” are of two types – “classical skilled jobs”, where you employ one of your RL skills directly towards an activity in SL, and free-lancers/business owners, where you bring in other skills, that do not relate directly to SL, but which can be employed successfully to give you a steady income.

Let’s see the first type of skilled jobs. The classical skilled jobs in SL can be broadly divided in two different types as well – the first type, you just require Second Life’s client application to do your job. The second type requires external tools.

The first job is building – using SL’s 3D modelling interface to create unique objects that you can sell. This is probably one area of SL that everybody has tried at least once – sticking prims together to build new objects. There are several sorts of “builders” – architects, who specialize in building homes; furniture designers; weapons; vehicles; miscellaneous objects. In the latter you may include artists, who use the 3D modelling tools of SL to create sculptures or similar artistical objects.

While everybody is able to learn the 3D modelling interface of SL – and there are classes teachning both beginner and advanced levels – the truth is, to become successful in this business, you need an aesthethical sense much more than a thorough knowledge of the tools. It’s not surprising that the best architects/designers in SL are actually architects in RL, or 3D graphical designers, 3D modellers, or even people from the FX effects industry. For them, SL is just another tool to be learned – like a different word processor for a talented writer. As soon as they grasp the way SL’s modelling tool works, they can easily create fantastic pieces of art that they can sell very well – much faster than someone who has no talent but has been in-world for a year or two and really knows all the tricks of the modelling interface. Technique is not a substitute for imagination, creativity, and a well-developed aesthetical sense.

Lately, as SL’s society complexifies, we have seen a specialization of builders. A talented architect will probably not design vehicles or furniture, and the reverse is also true. Some people concentrate their efforts in building tiny objects – like jewelry or gadgets – and would probably do a bad job of creating a large building. If you’re talented, pick up a niche in SL, and focus your efforts in producing objects for that niche. Trying to compete with the well-established masters, with a solid reputation, is very, very hard – unless you wish to work for them instead of competing. Teams of builders work often together to meet deadlines (and also have more fun together!).

Associated with builders we often see texturizers. Due to the nature of 3D worlds, you cannot really have good builds if you don’t have wonderful textures, and these are much harder to do properly – it’s not a question of simply uploading one freebie texture, apply it to a building, and expect it to work! Textures are done with “external programs”, like Adobe Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or the open-source GIMP – you’ll need to be proficient with those tools in order to do good textures. Professional graphical designers or artists will have a much easier entry in the texturing market – colleges really teach semester courses on texturing. Some of the best examples in SL go even a step ahead – you create 3D models outside SL, apply the proper lighting to make your 3D model realistic, and grab the textures to upload them into SL. These types of builds achive a higher level of outstanding realism.

A slightly different type of specialized texturing is clothes design. Clothes in SL are designed using special templates – which you can get for free at the SL web site – over which you apply your skills and creativity, again using an external tool like the ones mentioned before. Clothes are perhaps easier to do than textures, but to do them *well*, takes a lot of time and patience. Simply grabbing a picture from a Web site and tweaking it on Photoshop, expecting to make a lot of money, will not work – the highly acclaimed top clothiers in SL do their own designs from scratch, and they make money for being unique, and for the high quality of their finished work – it’s very, very hard to do the seams properly (that is, aligning the front, back and sleeves properly), and people will expect to pay premium for “perfect” clothes, but next to nothing for crude attempts.

As with building, clothiers are starting to specialize on certain styles. The very big brands usually have all sorts of clothes, but smaller designers concentrate on a specific niche – say, lingerie, vampire clothing, T-shirts, or shoes. There are thousands of clothes designers in SL and it’s quite hard to build your reputation quickly (but there certainly are a few that succeeded). You will also need to own several shops to advertise your products – unlike architects which often are hired for the hour – and sponsor some events where you can show off your new clothes lines. There are even a very few “real world” brands designing clothes for SL avatars, so the competition is really increasing…

Another type of job which does not require any external tool is scripting. SL has a built-in language, called Linden Scripting Language (LSL), which is used to “program” all objects to make them react to and interact with avatars. Scripting is not hard for a professional programmer – it’s just another language to be learned, and it’s relatively easy to learn and master. However, unlike other jobs, traditionally, you cannot sell scripts directly – you sell mostly scripted objects. This means that many scripters partner up either with architects or object builders, and split the profit from scripted objects. Experienced scripters will also be very proficient in doing scripts that reduce lag (which is not obvious for a beginning scripter). If you can make a reputation from selling a few good scripted objects, it’s not unusual that you may get hired as a free-lancer in a large-scale project. Remember, a large part of SL’s population are professional programmers in RL, so this is a field with lots of competition from professionals. As usual, creativity and imagination are the key to success!

A different job type – which pays well and has almost no competition – is the animator. Animations are done on an external program, usually Poser from Curious Labs – an expensive, semi-professional tool which LL has favoured (you can use some open-source or free tools like Blender, but you probably need to tweak the final animation in Poser to import it properly into SL). Poser is fun to learn and relatively easy to use for simple animations. Complex, realistic animations like walking or dancing are another matter entirely – to get good results, you need to use a very expensive technology called “motion capturing”, envolving complex devices and harnesses and several video cameras. Not unsurprisingly, there are just a handful of good animators in Second Life, and they can almost get a RL living from the animations they do (one of the leading dance animators has over 10,000 happy customers, and each of his animations sells for L$ 350 – and many buy several!). This is a very specialized job and one that certainly has lots of room for new players!

Event hosters are a type of job that has lately suffered from a big change in SL’s economic model. To attract people to your place, the best way is to announce events in the Events list, where everybody in-world can see the announcements. Event hosting rely upon your own RL communication skills, your ability to entertain other people and make them have fun by attending your events, and the degree of imagination in coming up with new ideas. Events can be simple things like discussions – no need for much preparation! – or highly complex, like a fashion show, a boxing or chess competition, or a medieval tournament. In the latter cases, it means to coordinate a team of builders and scripters to create lots of objects that will interact with the people attending your event. Classes are also a type of event that need some preparation and some experience in teaching.

A different type of event hoster enriches a certain environment. The typical example is a DJ – streaming life music into a night club. While almost anybody with a large music collection, a tool like WinAmp and access to a streaming server like Shoutcast is able to DJ, good DJs have a talent to entertain people for a few hours by reacting to the audience’s moods and being able to adjust the musical selection accordingly. Some DJs have their own clubs, other roam SL offering their talents. Other similar jobs are stand-up comediants or trivia event hosters.

We come now to other types of jobs that use skills which are not directly related to things in-world but which can be surprisingly employed to making a living. The first and more obvious one is the real estate agent – also nicknamed Land Baron by the residents of SL. Land Barons buy land wholesale, either from the auctions or directly, parcel it out, and announce it for resale – or they act merely as intermediaries between buyers and sellers, charging a fee. It needs good taste to pick up good spots, an understanding of how the market works and which plots will sell well, and a capacity to establish an unblemished reputation, in order to make continued sales.

Some Land Barons rent land instead of selling. Renting is a good choice if you don’t want to pay tier, just have a Basic account, or just need a temporary piece of land for some particular reason. There are basically three types of renting. You can rent un-terraformed land free of buildings, and set up your place just like you want. Or you can rent some land with the buildings already set up for your use – like prefab houses. The third type is the mall, where you rent very small places to set up your shops, and expect that the mall owner sets up events and advertising to attract people to the mall.

You also have people making a living off GOM – the Gaming Open Market, an external company (http://www.gamingopenmarket.com) which exchanges L$ for US$, and vice-versa. Making a profit by buying cheap and selling high is not for the faint of heart – you’re dealing with “real money” and need to have a very good understanding on how a stock exchange works. Other “external” jobs include Web sited which sell SL items and charge a comission on sales – the best examples being SL Exchange (http://www.slexchange.com) and Second Server (http://www.secondserver.net) from the Gigas group. In this case, the “job” is completely out of SL, and is just plain e-Commerce, using Second Life as the marketplace, but using RL tools, RL programming, and RL advertising (or discussions on the SL forums) to promote their business.

All the rest of the jobs are not so clearly defined. For instance, you have all sorts of people organizing companies, groups, associations, even cartels. They have skills organizing people together. There are people using their marketing or advertising skills in-world. There even are lawyers and economists! All carve their niches in their Second Lifes, using all sorts of skills they have IRL, and putting them into use.

Every one of us is talented in a special way. Some of us discover new talents while in-world. The trick for having fun in SL, and even earn some money while having fun, is learning about our own talents and skills, apply our imagination and creativity, and make the most of it!

About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I'm just a virtual girl in a virtual world...